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Essay Topics for Dr. Faustus and A Doll's House

Purpose of the essay

The purpose of this essay  is to develop an argument about an aspect of either Dr. Faustus or A Doll’s House (topics are listed after the discussion of the play in Weeks 11-12). The primary focus of the essay should be your analysis of the topic, but it must also include references to at least two secondary sources—either scholarly essays (from academic journals) or books of literary criticism on the plays.  


You are required to read Chapters 15-16 in Quick Access on integrating sources and avoiding plagiarism. You also need to review chapters 24 and 25 for correct models for your in-text citations and Works Cited page.  Take note of how to cite lines from a play on p.213 (#9).


You may analyze either play using a specific critical approach—Historical, Biographical, Sociological, Gender, Psychological, or Mythical—as outlined in Critical approaches to Interpreting A Literary Text (in Week 1), or you may choose from the topics listed for each play.


Essay Topics for Dr. Faustus:


1. Discuss the dramatic function and thematic purpose of the comic scenes in the play.


2. Discuss the character of Dr. Faustus.  Is he a dynamic character* who gradually deteriorates from nobility to depravity, or is he a static character* who is consistently depraved from beginning to end?


3. Discuss the significance of the figure of Helen of Troy.


4. Is the play a morality play or a satire of a morality play?


5. Discuss the play as an expression of Renaissance aspirations.


6. Discuss the play as an allegorical expression of the tragedy of modern humanity.


7. Discuss the play as a subversive challenge to Christianity.  


8. Is the play a tragedy in the classical (Aristotelian) sense of the term? Develop your argument by referring to the characteristics of a classical tragedy as outlined below.



Essay Topics for A Doll’s House:


1. Discuss the dramatic significance of Dr. Rank.  What purpose does his character serve in developing theme and illuminating the major characters?


2. Compare the characters of Torvald Helmer and Nils Krogstad.  How are they similar and/or different?  Are they character foils?  What do they reveal about the roles of men in the late nineteenth century?


3. Discuss the illusions about nineteenth century marriage that the play dispels.


4. Discuss Nora and Mrs. Linde as character foils.  How does Mrs. Linde serve to illuminate the character of Nora?


5. Discuss the credibility of Nora’s transformation.  Is it plausible that Nora could undergo the change that we witness in the course of the play?  Has there always been a strong and determined woman within Nora?


6. Discuss the following statement: “It is . . . a mistake to see A Doll’s House solely as the tragedy of the female. [Torvald Helmer] is as much victim of society’s attitudes as Nora” (Worrall xxxvi).


7.  Discuss Ibsen’s use of symbolism, such as in the setting, costuming, the tarantella dance, and the imagery of disease and death.


8. Is this play a tragedy in either the classical or modern sense of the term?  Is Nora a tragic hero? Refer to the notes on Classical Tragedy that accompany Dr. Faustus; refer to the notes above on Modern Tragedy.





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